BFI Recommends: Welcome II the Terrordome

The first of our recommendations this week is a dystopian sci-fi epic that’s a neglected landmark in British film – chosen by David Somerset.

27 April 2020

By David Somerset

Welcome II the Terrordome (1995)

Welcome II the Terrordome is a shocking slice of epic sci-fi not a million miles from the Mad Max cycle. Criminally neglected since its release, it takes its name from the explosive 1989 Public Enemy track, but its anger and justification are much closer to home.

A historical prelude in South Carolina, 1652, depicts a defiant Ibo family who choose to drown in the sea rather than face cruelty and bondage. Nigerian Ibo cosmology connects this moment to a drama unfolding in a dystopian future inside the ‘Terrordome’ – a ghetto enclosure where a segregated and impoverished African diaspora community reside. It’s an echo of 1980s UK, with its racist climate of fear and intimidation. Yet within director Ngozi Onwurah’s violent, uncompromising vision there’s also a nostalgic reminder of a rebellious youth, whose costume, dance, home-made sound systems, hip-hop culture and DIY parties flourished before the clampdown.

When Ngozi Onwurah completed her low-budget debut feature she had already made a series of short films exploring black culture and identity. But this time, brimming with ambition and heartfelt rage, she made a ‘punk’ film with an urgent provocation, enshrined in the pounding soundtrack, streetwise dialogue and lovingly filmed, predominantly black cast.

David Somerset
Events Programmer

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